What a simplistic and inadequate approach to meet the challenges of the labour shortage in Quebec! For several years, we have told the government, our employer, that the solution to attract and keep nurses and nursing assistants in the public health network is to improve working conditions. The Charest government’s election process, as reflect in Minister Bolduc’s bonus, is an insult to care professionals who work under difficult conditions. Furthermore, as ineffective as it may be, this measure is only intended for a minority of care professionals. Minister Bolduc even had the gall to associate the promised bonuses to unrealistic conditions of availability for the professionals concerned. The government will pay a bonus of $3,000 per year to nurses during their first three years of practice and $8,000 per additional year of practice for those who are nearing retirement. This bonus is fixed at $2,000 for nursing assistants.
Let there be no misunderstanding. The FIQ is not opposed to bonuses but refuses to give the government any credit for taking action on the labour shortage by proposing an ineffective remedy. Several nursing assistants have already affirmed that these bonuses would not keep them working past their retirement because the working conditions are too difficult.
Who knows the needs of care professionals best?
During a meeting with the Minister, the FIQ informed him of its wish that this money be used to implement more structuring measures to relieve the everyday pressure on professionals. In particular, the government could put an end to compulsory overtime, stop relying on private agency personnel and create full-time positions to offer mentoring to new hires. The government does not want to negotiate working conditions with its employees. It proved this by imposing a decree in 2005. It is compounding the offence by preferring to offer inadequate bonuses so that it can gain political capital instead of negotiating with the FIQ, a democratic federation that includes the vast majority of Quebec care professionals and that consults its members on their needs and the solutions to be applied to improve working conditions.
The government must understand that untenable working conditions are the source of the problem of attracting and retaining its workforce. To make the public health network more attractive and ensure quality care for the population, the conditions of practice for care professionals must be humanized. How? The government must sit down with the FIQ, the organization which knows the situation and which proposes solutions that meet the members’ needs and that improve health care in Quebec.
In the hope that good weather will return, I wish everyone working in the health care network a good vacation.